Granddad wants mashed potatoes with lots of butter. Brother Charlie wants sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top. Aunt Sue wants fresh off the stalk brussels sprouts. Dad wants his mother’s Christmas pie. Every holiday dinner has its old standbys and new fangled ideas.
Last week we found ourselves planning the Christmas dinner menu with French friends. Potatoes, check.
A big bird, it would be a chapon, which is a castrated rooster....?!, check.
Nothing too different so far. (Knowing nothing either way about turkey eunuchs)
Then my brain sprung, we are living in France. What do french people have after the meal and before the dessert? Cheese. Oh my glorious day.
I took advantage of our french host and asked him to help me with the cheese selection. Off we went to a well stocked cheese counter. We had to start with a cheddar for Tom. This got the cheese vendor off on a funny foot. She said she often sells cheddar to foreign shoppers and finally had to ask what do you do with this hard, dry, flaky cheese? Imagine that conversation to the ears of a Vermonter. Then we poked and prodded an Epoise. This needed to be ripe, stinky. I was to gently push the packaging to see that the cheese would dimple with a slight push. Did it have a bit of a reddish, orange tint to the surface? It certainly had the stink. Ahh, then it will be perfect on Christmas evening. And then back to the cheese vendor. How about a really good Roquefort?
Here the conversation turned to the very high price. This is a cheese to be savored. It will set the pocket book back but it is worth it - just be sure to have guest that appreciate the effort. Now the Roblechon......
You get the picture. This was an adventure in how to find a food at its perfection. How to find tastes that stimulated the palette yet were subtle and divine after a full meal. Cheeses that would be savored one small bite at a time. Enhanced even further with a good wine.
Now that was a Christmas menu!
And to top it all off our friends made a Christmas pie (Isle Flotant -- Floating Islands) just like my father’s mother. My grandmother that loved all things French.
|Well a lot fancier than Grandmas, but a taste that took me back to childhood Christmas dinners.|